I recently learned that Donald Trump’s childhood pastor was the charlatan Norman Vincent Peale. This explains a lot.
“I still remember [Peale’s] sermons. You could listen to him all day long. And when you left the church, you were disappointed it was over. He was the greatest guy.” — Trump (Politico)
When I was in junior high a family friend and Peale devotee gave me his book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” I thought it was nifty and often quoted it to others, until a skeptical college professor encouraged me to look further.
I read up on Peale and soon learned what a fraud this guy was. And you can see how he helped Trump turn out as he has.
Columbia University’s Gwenda Blair, a biographer of the Trump family:
“Known as ‘God’s salesman,’ Peale merged worldliness and godliness to produce an easy-to-follow theology that preached self-confidence as a life philosophy. Critics called him a con man, described his church as a cult, and said his simple-minded approach shut off genuine thinking or insight. But Peale’s outlook, promoted through his radio shows, newspaper columns and articles, and through Guideposts, his monthly digest of inspirational messages, fit perfectly into the Trump family culture of never hesitating to bend the rules, doing whatever it took to win, and never, ever giving up.”
I can think of at least three Peale influences on Trump: Fake Sources, Hypnosis and Fear Mongering.
As my college professor pointed out, there are hundreds of unnamed and unverifiable “sources” Peale cites for his claims. The book is rife with anecdotes and sayings from anonymous people such as “a famous psychiatrist” or “a prominent citizen.” He taught Trump how to support your assertions by just making it all up.
Harvard scholar Donald Meyer, back in 1965, labeled Peale’s book “The bible of American auto hypnotism.” This became a theme among Peale critics, who noted the similarity between hypnosis and his many “techniques” for absolute self-confidence and persuasion. Perhaps this explains that one-third of the electorate who think Trump can do no wrong.
On the fear factor, Wikipedia notes that detractors say “Peale’s philosophy is based on exaggerating the fears of his readers and followers, and that this exaggerated fear inevitably leads to aggression and the destruction of those considered ‘negative.’” Just watch the crowd at any Trump rally to see this connection.